"Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil" Ecclesiastes 8:11.
THE MIAMI, FLORIDA, riots of last spring were the worst outbreak of racial violence in 13 years in the United States. Fifteen people died. Both blacks and whites were set on, beaten in some cases mutilated. More than a hundred million dollars worth of property was damaged. And what ignited it all? The failure of man's court system to punish those who were guilty of murder! of man's system of criminal justice. They are a result of the truth of Isaiah's prophecy: "Judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter" (Isaiah 59:14). The Miami riots began May 17, after an all-white jury acquitted four white police officers, two of whom were Hispanics, of bludgeoning to death a black insurance salesman, Arthur McDuffie. As the rioters took to the streets, they chanted his name. The facts of the McDuffie murder case are simply outrageous. While the stories differ on which police officer may have delivered the fatal blow, there is agreement that several Miami policemen savagely beat McDuffie and later lied in police reports to make it look like an accident. McDuffie was on his motorcycle, about 2 a.m., December 17, 1979. According to police reports, McDuffie ran a red light, and when police gave chase, tried to outrun them. The chase allegedly hit speeds of up to 100 miles per hour. Stories differ as to whether McDuffie crashed or surrendered. The initial police report said he crashed and hit his head on the pavement. Yet it also said he then resisted arrest so violently that police had to forcibly subdue him an unbelievable story considering the kind of damage anyone sustains who is in a motorcycle accident. After McDuffie was stopped, several officers set on him with nightsticks and heavy metal flashlights. After he was on the ground, motionless, one officer in particular repeatedly smashed him in the head. The beating inflicted terrible injury. The coroner said his skull had been "cracked like an egg." A Dade County medical examiner said it was "the equivalent of falling four stories and landing between your eyes." And yet the men who beat him got off scot free! How they did so reveals much about human courts and "justice."
The beating of McDuffie had been so brutal, and the initial police reports so inconsistent, that an internal police department investigation was launched. Eight officers were fired. Four of them eventually went on trial. But in this world, human courts are tragically limited. How do human courts find facts? They must rely on witnesses. This was the first tragedy in the McDuffie murder case. The only witnesses were the eight officers on the scene! In order to get testimony against the worst offenders, the local prosecutors had to promise certain of the officers immunity. Without their testimony, it would have been virtually impossible to prove who beat McDuffie. The jury thought that it was not fair as indeed it wasn't to only convict some of the officers while letting the others go free with immunity. The human prosecutors, of course, had absolutely no other choice. It was either grant immunity to some or let all go free. Yet God's principle of justice, found in the Bible, is far different. Every evil crime should be punished: "For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known" (Luke 12:2). The Bible also declares, "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" (Galatians 6:7). Those who commit crimes should get what they deserve - not be able to go free by wrangling an immunity deal. The Bible, on the other hand, recognizing man has such limited means of finding the facts of a case, requires that witnesses must be truthful (Exodus 20: 16: "Thou shalt not bear false witness..."). The Old Testament makes perjury a severely punished crime: "... if the witness be a false witness, and hath testified falsely against his brother; then shall ye do unto him, as he had thought to have done unto his brother ..." (Deuteronomy 19:18-19). And yet in the McDuffie case, the judge had to emphasize to the jury that the witnesses could be lying: "A witness who realizes he must procure his own freedom by incriminating others has a motive to falsify."
What Is Truth?
The ability of the natural (what the Bible calls carnal) human mind to know the whole truth of a situation is severely limited. It is often very difficult to be sure of what really happened. To overcome this limitation, human justice in countries having the Anglo-Saxon legal system have developed the jury system. The basic principle is that two heads are better than one. This is in agreement with the basic biblical principle: "in the multitude of counsellors there is safety" (Proverbs 11:14). And yet jurors are human, and are, unlike God (Acts 10:34), "respecters of persons." The jury which acquitted McDuffie's murderers was all white. Of course, they weren't supposed to let any racial factors affect their judgment. But many, including those who rioted afterwards, believe otherwise. And yet while the idea of a jury is based on the multitude-of-counselors principle, the particular jury in the McDuffie case seemed to violate the principle. A jury normally consists of 12 persons the same number as Christ chose as His original apostles. The McDuffie case jury had only six. Perhaps, if the jury had been larger, they might not have been so quick to return a not-guilty verdict. The jury was all white because the judge moved the trial away from Miami to an area where there are fewer black residents on the jury lists, and because the defense lawyers were able to challenge all potential black jurors who were available. This last points up a growing problem in American justice. Because lawyers are able to challenge jurors, they are using that privilege to mold juries in ways that they believe will be favorable to their clients. They know certain kinds of people are biased certain ways. The Bible, on the other hand, seeks to remove justice as much as possible from merely human factors. The Bible's system of justice seeks truth unfiltered by human emotions and feelings: "Thou shalt not pervert the judgment of the stranger, nor of the fatherless..." (Deuteronomy 24:.17). In God's system of justice, it makes no difference who the judge is or who the defendant is. Color, class, sex are all factors that the Bible says very clearly should never affect the outcome of a case: "... if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin..." (James 2:9). Unfortunately, when justice is left in the hands of mortals, judges and juries are respecters of persons. Accordingly, juries should be made up of enough individuals to "dilute" their human tendency. Had the jury in the McDuffie case been larger, racial biases might have been easily overcome. Many people have a very hard time believing that a 12-person jury, including a number of blacks, would have returned the same verdict.
The Bungling Revenger
God lays on human rulers the duty to punish evildoers: "For he [the human ruler] is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he [the human ruler] beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil" (Romans 13 :4). Because private citizens usually would punish out of proportion to the crime, the Bible declares that such revenge must be left to duly constituted authority: "... avenge not yourselves .... Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord" (Romans 12:19). God repays, in part, using the human authorities as His ministers. Indeed, the bloody and senseless Miami riots themselves show what happens when private citizens seek to take vengeance into their own hands! And yet human rulers do fail in their duty to punish evildoers as happened in the McDuffie case. The prosecutors bungled. They should have protested the all-white jury more. They should have brought harsher charges against the defendants, so at least the jury would be more willing to return a guilty verdict on some charge, even if it was a lesser one. And they should have taken more time to investigate the case. In this regard, God indicts the whole criminal justice system. This indictment applies especially to judges, who make the law that binds the prosecutors: "Thus saith the Lord God; Let it suffice you, O princes of Israel: remove violence and spoil, and execute judgment and justice, take away your exactions from my people, saith the Lord God" (Ezekiel 45:9). This charge from God is confirmed by the statement of Benjamin Hooks, head of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People: "It's hard to describe the feelings of rage you have when men and women in uniform, who are agents of the state, beat or kill someone and you follow due process of law and the Constitution and they're let go." Thus, because the American judicial system doesn't work as God desires, the murderers of Arthur McDuffie went free and Miami burned in race riot. A Boston Human Rights Commission member says, "When there's an appearance of a perversion of the judicial process, people take to the streets." The prophet Ezekiel is even stronger in condemning such injustice: "... the land is full of blood, and the city full of injustice..." (Ezekiel 9:9, RSV). Justice may be yet visited on the murderers of Arthur McDuffie. The United States attorney general, at this writing, is considering prosecuting them on federal charges. But no matter what happens it is sure to be a long process, drawn out over years. Even if a federal prosecution is successful, the biblical rule that sentence should be "speedily executed" against evildoers (Ecclesiastes 8:11) still will not have been followed.
Proclaim Equal Justice
The injustice done in the McDuffie case was in many ways the last straw for those who rioted. The citizens of Miami's black community had come to believe that the criminal justice system was biased against them. Thus, Miami prosecutors had gone out of their way by calling a rare Saturday session of a grand jury to indict a popular black school official of misuse of funds, but failed to secure an indictment against white plainclothes detectives who mistakenly burst into the home of a black school teacher and beat both him and his son. In another case, prosecutors let a white police officer who sexually molested an 11-year-old black girl off with psychiatric treatment rather than punish him by sending him to jail. With the acquittal of McDuffie's killers, a pattern seemed to be forming. Whites who did harm to black people weren't getting the punishment they deserved. In God's World, and under God's system, things will be different. God's principle is that factors that have nothing to do with guilt like race should have nothing to do with the outcome of justice. God condemns such partiality whether, for example, it is against the poor (Exodus 23:6) or in their favor (Exodus 23:3). The Bible declares that it is an abomination when "innocent blood" like Arthur McDuffie's is shed (Deuteronomy 19:10). And in the coming World Tomorrow, such incidents as happened to McDuffie will be forever banned. God will soon send Jesus Christ to establish His government to bring "justice from henceforth even forever" (Isaiah 9:7). Under that government, there will be equal justice for all regardless of race. The Bible declares: Ye shall have one manner of law, as well for the stranger, as for one of your own country... (Leviticus 24:22). One "manner of law" for everyone! Because this principle was violated, Miami burned. But when Christ returns, it will be respected and put into practice. A just world is coming one with equal justice for all.